This week proved to be the most stable one of the split in terms of rankings. But as to how the wins and losses were acquired is an entirely different matter. Echo Fox had an extremely unlucky week, facing the top two teams in the bracket and getting thoroughly swept as a result with 4 lost games and no victories. As of this week, Team Solomid and Immortals have both officially secured their spots in the playoffs. Though that is hardly a reason for Team Solomid to rest on their laurels as the prospect of a perfect season is still very much in their grasp. They have proven to be miles ahead of their competition, but they must face a final major hurdle in two weeks: their rematch against Immortals.
1st Place: Team SoloMid 14W-0L
2nd Place: Immortals 13W-1L
3rd Place: Team Liquid & Cloud 9 8W-6L
5th Place: Team Envy & Counter Logic Gaming 7W-7L
7th Place: Apex 5W-9L
8th Place: NRG Esports 4W-10L
9th Place: Phoenix 1 3W-11L
10th Place: Echo Fox 1W-13L
If the name of the game last week was Taliyah, then this week was Malzahar. While he is a prime pick in the European LCS, North American mid laners took him up and dominated the rift. Malzahar’s powerful ranged harass tools and wave clear helps him survive the early game to dominate mid and lategame teamfights once he hits his 3-item core build. He was picked up so many times on Day 1 to such great effect that bans were leveled against him later on in the week. Illaoi also saw some action this week in a few of the games on Day 1, and not just by NRG top laner Quas, functioning as a surprise sustain pick that caused a lot of trouble with her zone control and poke.
Day 1 was certainly full of surprises. One of which being the first game of the week, where Counter Logic Gaming claimed victory over Immortals. Huhi chose Aurelion Sol and managed to end the game 9/2/5, but eight of those kills were acquired later into the game well after some of the shakier moments. What really kept CLG in contention during the first part of the game was the playmaking ability of Huhi’s teammates, such as Aphromoo’s incredible Cosmic Bindings on Bard. After Immortals successfully stole Baron from them, a bad teamfight near their inner turret left only 3 members of CLG to defend the base. But through sheer tenacity and waiting for the exact right moment to engage, they held out long enough for their teammates to respawn and counterattack. In the ensuing teamfights, Aphromoo landed some integral Tempered Fates to split up Immortals, until CLG ended a fight with enough of a lead and long enough death timers on the opposition to close out the game. Even though they lost the match in the end, they made a fight of it that put them on the map.
Day 2 held a different kind of surprise in the form of a champion that rarely makes it through the draft phase. Team Solomid’s second game against Team Liquid serves as a grim example to the dangers of a risky draft phase and that there is good reason to keep banning certain champions. In an attempt to shut down TSM support Biofrost’s champion pool, Team Liquid banned out Bard and Nami, two champions that Biofrost is very comfortable on. Meanwhile, TSM had already banned Braum in order to force a tradeoff on picks, which left only Karma from Biofrost’s main champion pool. However, the ban phase had instead left Vladimir open, which TSM picked with little hesitation. Team Liquid took Karma immediately after and spent the draft phase stealing champions favored by TSM’s lineup. The game itself started off with Team Liquid in the lead, as they killed TSM’s AD carry and top laner, Doublelift and Hauntzer respectively, early on. However, with the help of jungler Svenskeren, TSM was able to recuperate from these early losses that soon turned to gains with the utter lack of pressure given to Hauntzer for much of the laning phase and the strong counter engagements that gave kills over to Doublelift. During all of this, Bjergson focused on farming up Vladimir with virtually no lane pressure to impede his progress, turning him into the lategame powerhouse that has warranted the high ban rate. From there, it was just another typical TSM victory as they picked apart Team Liquid with impunity.
Amidst a week of surprise picks was also full of upsets, the first of which involved Team Envy and their continued descent into mediocrity upon being bested by NRG Esports. In their first game, NRG gave one of their most notable performances this split. The constant roaming by jungler Santorin kept Team Envy stuck in their lanes while NRG rotated constantly around the map to pick off isolated targets and pull off daring counter engagements. However, the game was still very much salvageable by Envy until the 17 minute mark, where the first of many disastrous engagements on their part was met with a perfect rotation by NRG that not only left a majority of their team dead, but with no kills to show for their efforts.
Then in Game 2, Envy accelerated the laning phase and skirmished hard as small groups onto NRG, who were looking to let their solo lanes accrue more gold and items through farming. This led to a promising early lead until midgame came around and their lead vanished as fast as it came, in no small part due to their poor prioritization and target choice of NRG’s tanks. This proved to be their undoing as the NRG back line mowed them down constantly. Eventually, they took another bad engagement inside of their own base that emboldened NRG to finish the game and take the series in 2-0 fashion.
However, no match was more back and forth or more imperative than Cloud 9 versus Counter Logic Gaming, in what was easily the greatest match of the week. With first and second seeds out of reach, Cloud 9 needed the win to better secure their position in the Top 4, while CLG needed it to remain in contention. Their first two matches were extremely one sided and showed that each team was quite serious about how badly they wanted the win: with CLG opening the match in blowout fashion, only to be retaliated against in a similar manner in Game 2.
Game 3 was a different story entirely. Within the first four minutes, CLG drew first blood against C9 Jensen in exchange for their jungler, Xmithie, seconds later. For the first twenty minutes of the game, the gold accumulated on both sides was extremely even as Cloud 9 never accrued more than 2000 gold in their favor. Cloud 9 would then pick up two additional kills throughout the laning phase as they punished CLG for playing so far forward, only to have the kill count evened out in the midgame when CLG started roaming as a group. Cloud 9 then made the mistake of trying to hold their base with only four members of their team while their top laner, Impact, attempted to counterpush into CLG’s inner turret, costing them an inhibitor. Afterwards, a bungled disengage near Baron Nashor cost the lives of Jensen and Impact, only to have the rest of the team follow suit as they tried to hold their base against the full force of CLG.
Counter Logic Gaming proved that while their record this split is rather average, they are still a team to be reckoned with. In a week that fans and analysts alike wrote them off, they managed to both scare Immortals and upset Cloud 9. Meanwhile, the unstoppable titans that are Team Solomid have passed another hurdle on their way to a perfect season, Team Envy and Apex have found themselves stuck in a rut after another disappointing week, and NRG managed to put a little more distance between themselves and relegation. However, the mad dash for 3rd and 4th place could not be tighter as only one match separates the teams tied for 3rd with those tied for 5th. While next week may look easier for Team Liquid and Cloud 9 than it does for Team Envy and Counter Logic Gaming, CLG could definitely make a final push in the last two weeks.